January 9, 2017

596 Views

Accessible Healthcare: Welcoming Mobility into the Fold

The mobile lies at the heart of digital healthcare – spearheading a future of integrated and connected care delivery.

By 2018, 50% of more than 3.4 billion smartphone and tablet users are expected to gain access to mobile health applications. This includes an increasing number of healthcare professionals, consumers, and patients as the need for on-the-go access to critical information rises.

Remote health monitoring devices and mobile apps help update patient records with real-time information, drive timely notifications, and provide critical insights to both providers and patients. However, this brings to the forefront concerns regarding patient privacy and data security. The widespread digital transformation sweeping across the healthcare industry needs to take into account the requirements of federal initiatives and compliance norms.

Here we take a look at how healthcare mobility, with its fair share of benefits and concerns, has completely transformed the care delivery continuum through connectivity and collaboration.

From Delivering Information to Delivering Care

Mobility in healthcare spans the entire gamut of mobile and wireless technologies, (such as, smart phones/hand-held devices, patient monitoring equipment, apps, or even personal digital assistants) to drive better patient outcomes. The early adopters of mobility have benefited from simplified inter-departmental document workflows, improved accountability, and better care coordination.

The Provider Perspective

The complete arc of the patient journey broadly entails diagnosis, treatment (covering hospitalization, acute/post-acute care, and home healthcare), and post-hospitalization recovery. The adoption of patient-centered care demands the timely transference of health records, at each of these stages. Moreover, in a value-based model/outcome-based economy, providers are trying to offer patient benefits that would translate to direct financial benefits for the organization.

While certain healthcare providers are still resistant when it comes to assimilating technology, as patient data grows exponentially in variety and volume, every provider needs access to solutions that could help mobilize clinical information. Consider this:

  • Over 55% Americans are faced with missing/incomplete medical history during scheduled visits to the doctor
  • 49% have highlighted that often the practitioner is unaware of existing prescriptions, allergies (61%), or medical conditions (40%)

This highlights the dire lack of electronic communication between patients and providers. The digitization of traditional paper-based processes—including progress notes, scheduling and visit activities, billing and payroll—has the potential to benefit many hospitals with quality output, enabling better patient care and satisfaction.

Mobile devices are now bolstered by relevant print, scan, and access applications, and enable practitioners to generate electronic health records (EHRs) that address meaningful use and affordable care requirements. Providers can capture, transform and manage patient data, and doctors/nurses can work in virtually any location—optimizing both cost and time, reducing error rates, and improving the quality of patient care.

The need for improved home healthcare facilities for patients is critical for hospitals looking at reducing readmission rates. Mobile solutions would equip practitioners and field staff with real-time access to onsite patient and medical information, and enhance communication, while addressing budget concerns.

It is important to note that deploying healthcare mobility would require significant investment in areas spanning enterprise mobility management, desktop and app virtualization, file sharing, social collaboration capabilities, remote support, and cloud networking. Therefore, a well-honed mobile strategy is imperative to ensure effective adoption. Stakeholders need to understand the target audience (healthcare professionals and patients), and identify their latent requirements, to align their solutions accordingly. Organizations need to critically examine industry best practices, and review existing literature to guide the development of solutions/applications.

The Payer Perspective

While healthcare mobility offers numerous benefits in terms of streamlining workflow, facilitating better care collaboration, informed decision making, and ease of access to EHRs—the two primary benefits of an exhaustive mobile health strategy are: affordability and accessibility.

Geographical limitations have been rendered irrelevant, as the reach and accessibility of critical business and clinical systems continue to expand, with medical devices moving closer to a patient’s point-of-care.

As mobile networks broaden, and smart phones become more affordable, mobility can be leveraged to reach far-flung communities to ensure superior population health management. The health requirements of low or middle income groups can also be catered to, with mobile solutions ensuring cost-effective monitoring and real-time data collection. It would help users track health information, and self-manage their conditions, especially if they suffer from chronic illnesses.

Some Key Considerations

According to Forbes, in 2015 alone, data breaches in healthcare totaled over 112 million records. Nearly 90% of all healthcare organizations suffered at least one data breach in the past two years, with an average cost of $2.2 million per hack. The entire mHealth ecosystem would be rendered vulnerable if org lack the resources required to mitigate cyber threats and keep patient data safe – highlighting the need for cybersecurity staff and talent to keep up with the dynamic nature of cyber threats.

Providers need to rapidly address the management of apps and data, and scrutinizing known security vulnerabilities to maintain the privacy and safety of protected information. With FDA committed to protecting patient safety while encouraging innovation in digital health, mobile app developers need to understand how FDA and HIPAA regulations would apply to their mobile health products – especially when ‘they are marketed, promoted or intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions, or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease.’

Even as all healthcare trends point towards the imminent adoption of mobility as critical to growth - it is important to imbibe a growing awareness of software security programs that protect medical records, billing and insurance records, and payment information. If healthcare providers are unable to safeguard personal information, eventually it would lead to massive revenue losses.